Sundance ’17: Hittman, Robespierre & Larnell Come Knocking Again in U.S. Dramatic Comp

Hittman, Robespierre & Larnell

Last year we had Grand Jury and Audience Award section winner and current awards season no-show The Birth of a Nation by Nate Parker lead the field with some excellent selections in Antonio Campos’ opulently disturbing Christine, So Yong Kim’s penetrating Lovesong, the Daniels’ highly original Swiss Army Man and the solid father-son dynamic in Chad Hartigan’s Morris from America. This edition we have several highly anticipated sophomore films from Sundance alumni who had their debut premiere in the NEXT section include Eliza Hittman (Beach Rats), Gillian Robespierre (Landline), Alexandre Moors (The Yellow Birds) and Michael Larnell (Roxanne Roxanne) and films that we earmarked in our predictions list and are looking forward to include Gerard McMurray‘s Burning Sands, Matt Ruskin‘s Crown Heights and Alex Ross Perry‘s Golden Exits. Here is the list of sixteen:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

“Band Aid”
Director and screenwriter: Zoe Lister-Jones)
A couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band.
Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel. World Premiere

“Beach Rats”
Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman
An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online.
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Neal Huff. World Premiere

“Brigsby Bear”
Director: Dave McCary, Screenwriters: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself. Cast: Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins. World Premiere

“Burning Sands”
Director: Gerard McMurray, Screenwriters: Christine Berg, Gerard McMurray
Deep into a fraternity’s Hell Week, a favored pledge is torn between honoring a code of silence or standing up against the intensifying violence of underground hazing.
Cast: Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton, Trevante Rhodes. World Premiere

“Crown Heights”
Director and screenwriter: Matt Ruskin
When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from This American Life, this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice.
Cast: Keith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom. World Premiere

“Golden Exits”
Director and screenwriter: Alex Ross Perry
The arrival of a young foreign girl disrupts the lives and emotional balances of two Brooklyn families.
Cast: Emily Browning, Adam Horovitz, Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman, Chloë Sevigny. World Premiere

“The Hero”
Director: Brett Haley, Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Lee, a former Western film icon, is living a comfortable existence lending his golden voice to advertisements and smoking weed. After receiving a lifetime achievement award and unexpected news, Lee reexamines his past, while a chance meeting with a sardonic comic has him looking to the future.
Cast: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Katherine Ross. World Premiere

“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”
Director and screenwriter: Macon Blair
When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves, alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals.
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye. World Premiere. DAY ONE

“Ingrid Goes West”
Director: Matt Spicer, Screenwriters: Matt Spicer, David Branson Smith
A young woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram lifestyle blogger and moves to Los Angeles to try and befriend her in real life.
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen. World Premiere

“Landline”
Director: Gillian Robespierre, Screenwriters: Elisabeth Holm, Gillian Robespierre
Two sisters come of age in ’90s New York when they discover their dad’s affair–and it turns out he’s not the only cheater in the family. Everyone still smokes inside, no one has a cell phone and the Jacobs finally connect through lying, cheating and hibachi.
Cast: Jenny Slate, John Turturro, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass, Finn Wittrock. World Premiere

“Novitiate”
Director and screenwriter: Maggie Betts
In the early 1960s, during the Vatican II era, a young woman training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, sexuality and the changing church.
Cast: Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor. World Premiere

“Patti Cake$”
Director and screenwriter: Geremy Jasper
Straight out of Jersey comes Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, an aspiring rapper fighting through a world of strip malls and strip clubs on an unlikely quest for glory.
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty. World Premiere

“Roxanne Roxanne”
Director and screenwriter: Michael Larnell
The most feared battle emcee in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend.
Cast: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmonds. World Premiere

“To the Bone”
Director and screenwriter: Marti Noxon
In a last-ditch effort to battle her severe anorexia, 20-year-old Ellen enters a group recovery home. With the help of an unconventional doctor, Ellen and the other residents go on a sometimes-funny, sometimes-harrowing journey that leads to the ultimate question– is life worth living?
Cast: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Liana Liberato. World Premiere

“Walking Out”
Directors and screenwriters: Alex Smith, Andrew Smith
A father and son struggle to connect on any level until a brutal encounter with a predator in the heart of the wilderness leaves them both seriously injured. If they are to survive, the boy must carry his father to safety.
Cast: Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone. World Premiere

“The Yellow Birds”
Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriter: David Lowery
Two young men enlist in the army and are deployed to fight in the Gulf War. After an unthinkable tragedy, the surviving soldier struggles to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace.
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, Jennifer Aniston. World Premiere

Eric Lavallée is the founder, editor-in-chief and film critic at IONCINEMA.com (founded in 2000). Eric splits his time between his home base in Montreal, NYC, and is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Talk to Her), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardennes (La Promesse), Haneke (Caché), Hsiao-Hsien (Three Times), Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love), Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry), Lynch (Mulholland Dr.), Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho), von Trier (Breaking the Waves)